November 06, 2006 12:00 PM

Derek Luke, Tim Robbins, Bonnie Henna

CRITIC’S CHOICE

DRAMA

Is one man’s freedom fighter another’s terrorist? That question, of obvious relevance to the world today, is bound to occur to viewers of this compelling true-life drama about Patrick Chamusso, who bravely battled apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s. Chamusso (Luke) was a peace-loving family man, determinedly apolitical—right up until he was wrongly arrested, imprisoned and brutally beaten along with family members and friends. Upon his release, he became a rebel fighter, determined to overthrow the oppressive minority government.

Chamusso was obviously on the side of right. But watching this latest film by director Phillip Noyce (ITALIC “The Bone Collector”]), one can’t help wondering about the effect of Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo on making new enemies for the U.S. This makes Fire simultaneously inspiring and disquieting; you are reflecting even as you’re cheering. Luke is all coiled intensity as Chamusso, while Robbins is icily scary as the manipulative cop on his trail. (R)

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